Campaign India Team
May 17, 2010

Anant's blog: The new game for brands - Truth or dare?

Take a big brand. A brand you know and like. Go to Google and enter the brand name, followed by the word ‘sucks’. Try Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi, Apple, iPad, Microsoft. Try whatever you fancy, and it still works.You will get results. Zillions of them, all with the potential to spark off negative conversations about brands that brand managers hope to be in control of.

Anant's blog: The new game for brands - Truth or dare?

Take a big brand. A brand you know and like. Go to Google and enter the brand name, followed by the word ‘sucks’. Try Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi, Apple, iPad, Microsoft. Try whatever you fancy, and it still works.

You will get results. Zillions of them, all with the potential to spark off negative conversations about brands that brand managers hope to be in control of.

And don't get lulled into thinking that the only brands that this works with are the big multinational brands. I tried it with Tata Nano, Godrej and Kingfisher. I tried it with Chinese brands Baidu, Haier and Yanjing as well.

It's apparent that so much of the control that brand managers once had are now, simply put, out of their control. I've had discussions with advertising professionals, brand managers and PR professionals  on the dangers, and most talk of ‘being in the conversation’ and ‘controlling’ the conversation.

A delayed flight. Flat beer in a bar. A laptop that crashes in a week. Call drops during a conversation on your mobile. Shampoo that doesn’t make your hair bounce. Deodorant that doesn’t attract the girls.

Each of these kickstarts conversations that will have the respective brand managers in a tizzy. Conversations that travel at the speed of the web, with more and more consumers joining in. You think you have a hope in hell in controlling them?

The best you can do is to try and get into the conversation and engage with the aggrieved and smoothen ruffled feathers. That lessens the problems – but does not make them disappear.

The root cause of most problems is that brands and advertising, between them, raise consumer expectations to levels which are difficult for the products themselves to match. If a motorcycle claims to deliver 83 km per litre, a conversation begins when a proud new owner discovers he gets only 60 km per litre.

And let us accept it, consumers do not read the conditions that apply, tucked away in 6 pt. Consumers trust brands, and when brands (and their advertising) make false claims, they betray the consumers.

Perhaps, in this age of uncontrollable conversations, it's worth revisiting the elements that are in control: the product and the advertising. Perhaps the new challenge will be in communicating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and yet stand out in the clutter on supermarket shelves.

It will require a significant change in the way brands and advertising professionals see their businesses, but the alternative, which is conversations you have no control of, is not an option brands can afford to gamble with.

And it’s not so bad building a reputation as a brand that sticks to the truth, is it?

Tell the truth, or dare to  take on a conversation you can't control. You choose.

Source:
Campaign India